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State Views: Gov. Walker's policies contribute to Wisconsin's dismal economic result

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Rep. Debra Kolste
June 27, 2014

As a legislator, I am committed to creating and retaining family-supporting jobs. I believe state policies can spur investment and position Wisconsin for growth.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel guest editorial on June 20 effectively absolved Gov. Walker of any responsibility for Wisconsin's economy.

The Gazette editorial on Sunday seconded that contention.

I don't recall The Gazette suggesting before that state government has little bearing on economic performance. When I ran for Assembly, The Gazette asked about my economic program. I believe the question was asked because the Legislature has a role in the state economy.

Walker and the Republican majority have completely controlled the legislative agenda for 3 years and bear responsibility for the result of their policies. The governor claims “it's working,” to justify his actions. Well, it isn't working.

Wisconsin is 46th for new businesses created.

The contention that the state's “economic mix” is responsible for its poor performance doesn't explain Wisconsin's last-place rank in the Midwest. The Gazette acknowledges that Wisconsin's Midwestern peers face similar challenges. Many states do. But Wisconsin has fallen in national rankings every year of Walker's tenure.

The Gazette's notion that Wisconsin has trailed the national average for jobs under both Republican and Democratic administrations is misleading. Democrats controlled Wisconsin's government for only two years, 2008-10, during the very pit of the national recession.

Here is a passage from a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article June 21. “Wisconsin's below-average job performance is not new. The state performed worse than the national average in five of eight years under Gov. Doyle, a Democrat. Its best ranking in the last 10 years was during Doyle's final year in office, when Wisconsin ranked 11th in private-sector job growth.”

Again, Democrats controlled the Legislature for only two years under Doyle, including his last year.

The Walker economy is no accident.

-- Walker attacked public workers as his first major action. The resulting upheaval hasn't inspired business confidence.

-- Walker replaced the Commerce Department with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., which has been mismanaged from the outset and has produced few jobs.

-- Walker sent $800 million in railroad funding back to the federal government to be spent creating jobs in other states.

-- Walker rejected $2.5 billion in federal health care funding, and the projected medical jobs went to other states. Wisconsin taxpayers will pay $119 million more this biennium alone for health care.

- Attacks on public education have hurt our economy, and so have cuts to higher education. The university system has long been an economic engine in Wisconsin.

-- Local roads and other infrastructure crumble as shared revenues dwindle. The blame for Janesville's roads lies partly at Walker's feet. Broken roads don't attract business.

-- The business tax cuts have been ill-targeted, and the governor's property tax and income tax cuts have been insufficient to get real money to the job creators—people participating in the economy.

I don't accept the idea that none of this matters. Neither should readers of The Gazette.

Rep. Debra Kolste, D-Janesville, serves the 44th Assembly District, which includes most of the city of Janesville. Email Rep.Kolste@legis.Wisconsin.gov; phone 888-947-0044.



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